Special Agent Sydney Parnell’s Reading List

Author Barbara Nickless interviews her main character about the books on her bedside table.

Sydney Parnell

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Barbara Nickless’ new thriller series centers on railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, a tough-as-nails hero still haunted by PTSD following her service in Iraq. In her debut, Blood on the Tracks, Nickless’s protagonist finds herself still battling long-standing wounds, while at the same time, trying to investigate the murder of a woman. Author Barbara Nickless interviewed her main character Sydney Parnell to find out the books that she’s been reading—in between crime fighting. Click the covers above to read Sydney’s thoughts on each one and pick up Blood on the Tracks to follow Sydney’s story.

Like so many, Sydney Parnell enlisted with the Marines after 9/11. She served two tours in Iraq in Mortuary Affairs, where it was her job to collect and process the dead. Once home, she took a job as a railroad cop, hoping that the long hours and solitude would give her peace. She works with her K9 partner, Clyde, a former military working dog who also returned from war struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But then a young woman is found murdered, her body surrounded by hobo symbols—the code used by transients to communicate with each other. Sydney is pulled into the investigation because of her knowledge of the hobo community. Once more, she must speak for the dead.

Sydney always loved murder mysteries and thrillers—tales where the good guys find and apprehend the bad guys and justice wins. But now she reads a lot of non-fiction, too, as she copes with the trauma she and Clyde brought home with them—all while she oversees her share of 35,000 miles of train track.

Barbara Nickless: So, Sydney. You work full time as a railroad cop. In your spare time, you track down killers, take on ruthless gang members, feed the homeless, train your K9 partner, take care of your grandmother, and attend college. Rumor has it you’re also trying to have a go at a real relationship. No time to read. Right?

Sydney: Right! Because who wants to waste a moment enriching their lives or learning or growing or, say, becoming a better human being?

Barbara: I heard you were sarcastic.

Sydney: Totally.

Barbara: Okay. Books. You read. Can you spare ten minutes to give us a list of your favorites and why you like them?

Sydney: I’ll give you five minutes. I’ve got a hazardous materials train making a run and a killer on the loose…wait, did you just hear a gunshot? Gotta run!


Author Photo: Jonathan Betz

Featured Image: Stanislav Ratushnyi/Shutterstock.com

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BARBARA NICKLESS, who was born in Guam and lives in Colorado, promised her mother that she’d be a novelist when she grew up. What she didn’t mention at the time was the type of jobs she’d work beforehand: a technical writer, astronomy instructor, piano teacher, journalist, even a raptor rehabilitator and a swordfighter. In Colorado, she enjoys hiking, snowshoeing and drinking single malt scotch—usually not all at once.

As an author, Nickless’ short stories and essays have been published in anthologies in the United States and the United Kingdom. Blood on the Tracks is her debut novel (and signifies that she has officially kept her promise to her mother!).

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